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Plane in deadly crash was using a Corvette engine

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#1 bomax


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Posted July 9 2008 2:57PM

Plane in deadly crash was not using aircraft engine
By Rafael A. Olmeda

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

July 9, 2008

The pilot who died when his small experimental plane crashed at North Perry Airport recently had replaced its engine with one from a Chevrolet Corvette, a mechanic says, a conversion the plane's manufacturer said Tuesday it frowned on.

It's not clear whether the engine swap had anything to do with Monday evening's crash that killed Douglas Pohl, 57. The practice of converting a car engine for use in aircraft is not against the law, not uncommon, and not without controversy.

Jose Obregon, a National Transportation and Safety Board investigator, said a preliminary report on the cause of the crash will be issued within a week. The agency will look at the engine, fuel systems, airworthiness, the weather and a host of other possible contributing factors.

"We look at everything," Obregon said.

Pohl was flying a Lancair IV-P built from a kit when the plane crashed shortly after takeoff around 6 p.m. He was the only one on board and no one on the ground was hurt.

Although his name has not been officially released, family members confirmed Pohl was the pilot. He lived in Jupiter and worked as a pathologist in Miramar.

Larry Cappolino, a mechanic with a company at the airport, said Pohl recently replaced the plane's engine with a motor taken from a Corvette. He said he met Pohl about a month or two ago, when Pohl was troubleshooting a fuel-delivery problem with the plane.

Timothy Ong, general manager of Oregon-based Lancair International, said automobile engines are not designed to withstand the levels needed to power even a small airplane.

"It is not something we recommend," Ong said.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said planes with converted engines need to meet specific standards to obtain airworthiness certificates, while plane engines are certified before they're sold. The certificate for Pohl's plane listed the engine type as unknown, which Bergen said is typically an indicator that it's a converted engine.

But experimental airplane enthusiasts said conversions are less expensive and can still be safe when proper guidelines are followed.

"It's fairly common throughout the experimental aviation community," said Patrick Panzera, editor of Contact magazine, which caters to amateur airplane builders and pilots.

By his estimate, fewer than 10 percent of experimental planes use automobile engines.

Car engines cost roughly $5,000 to buy and another $5,000 to convert for airplane use, Panzera said.

A small airplane engine can cost two to three times that amount. The fuel to run a converted car engine is about $1 per gallon cheaper than plane fuel, and it costs less to rebuild a car engine than a plane engine, Panzera said.

Statistics were not available Tuesday on the number or percentage of plane crashes that involved converted engines.

According to the Experimental Aircraft Association, the crash rate for amateur-built aircraft is less than 1 percent higher than professionally built planes.

Panzera said people who build their planes and use car parts are also likely to take risks that might lead to accidents, but he didn't think converted engines are always to blame.

Pohl's family in Jupiter and co-workers at his office in Miramar declined to comment Tuesday.

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#2 SublimeZ


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Posted July 9 2008 3:01PM

Larry Cappolino, a mechanic with a company at the airport, said Pohl recently replaced the plane's engine with a motor taken from a Corvette. He said he met Pohl about a month or two ago, when Pohl was troubleshooting a fuel-delivery problem with the plane.

Pull key, wait 10 seconds...
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#3 Quagmire


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Posted July 9 2008 3:30PM


That's what I thought of when I first saw this.
If it bleeds, we can kill it.

#4 CanAmChris


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Posted July 9 2008 3:44PM

I hope he wasn't using a LTx motor, I would hate to think the Opti crapped out and caused the accident.

#5 Jason


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Posted July 9 2008 3:44PM

I hope he wasn't using a LTx motor, I would hate to think the Opti crapped out and caused the accident.

let alone the extra weight...
Roll with the punches, tomorrow is another day!

#6 HellBlazer


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Posted July 9 2008 6:48PM

Moral of the story.....
Corvette engine in kit car = GOOD
Corvette engine in kit plane = BAD
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#7 StretchNutz



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Posted July 10 2008 5:32PM

Pull key, wait 10 seconds...


#8 Pat06Z51


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Posted July 16 2008 8:38PM

Why is it that when people have an fbody they point out "I have a corvette engine" but when this plane crashes it's a vette engine :P

Oh and the pull key wait 10 seconds is priceless :lol:

Edited by Pat03Z06, July 16 2008 8:39PM.

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#9 slownsteady



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Posted April 15 2012 3:46PM

NTSB Identification: MIA08LA134


On July 07, 2008, at 1755 eastern daylight time, an experimental, amateur built, Douglas A. Pohl Lancair IV-P, N488SD, crashed after a loss of engine power at the North Perry Airport (HWO), Hollywood, Florida. The pilot was killed and the airplane incurred substantial damage. The flight was operated by the private pilot, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed.

Witnesses stated to the responding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, they observed the airplane depart from runway 9R. The airplane rotated at an estimated 2,100 feet (ft) down the runway. The landing gear retracted when it was about 50 ft above ground level (agl). When the airplane was at an estimated altitude of 150 ft agl, and past the departure end of the runway, there was an interruption of engine power. One witness stated it sounded like an 18-wheeler down shifting, while another witness stated it lost power completely. Immediately following the power interruption, the airplane was observed to make a left turn. It continued the turn and increased in bank angle. The airplane stalled when it reached about 80 degrees of bank, as it was going through a north heading. The airplane went straight down and impacted the ground nose first in a left spiral, adjacent to a tennis court located on the perimeter of the airport. The airplane came to rest on a 20-foot-tall tennis court fence. A fire ensued moments later, which consumed sections of the airplane, before the fire department was able to extinguish it.


The pilot, age 57, held a private pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine land and instrument airplane. He was issued a third-class medical certificate in December 2006, with a limitation of must wear corrective lenses. The pilot documented a total of 875 flight hours in all aircraft at the time of the medical. He also held a repairman experimental aircraft builder certificate and an inspection certificate for an experimental airplane make Pohl Lancair model IV-P, serial number LIV-008, as of July 09, 2001. A review of the pilot’s flight logbooks revealed that the pilot had a total of 1,255 hours total time.


The airplane was an experimental, amateur-built airplane, serial number LIV-008, and issued an experimental airworthiness certificate, normal category, on July 09, 2001. The airplane was certified in accordance with Title 14 of CFR Part 23 airworthiness standards. A review of the airplane's maintenance records revealed that the airplane was under an annual condition / 100 hour aircraft inspection program. The last annual condition / 100 hour inspection was performed on August 15, 2007, at a total airframe time of 378 hours. The engine was a Silver Wing Aviation, Inc, AV8-470, liquid cooled, with an EPI Mark-9 PSRU gearbox driving the three-blade propeller assembly. The total time recorded on the engine at the last 100-hour inspection was 378 hours. Examination of the provided maintenance records revealed no unresolved maintenance discrepancies against the airplane prior to departure.


The HWO weather observation at 1753, recorded in part: winds 100 degrees at 11 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 31 degrees Celsius ©; dew point 23 degrees C; altimeter 30.07 inches of mercury.


At 1752, the pilot contacted the HWO ground controller requesting taxi instructions for departure and was issued taxi instructions to runway 9 right. At 1754, the pilot contacted the HWO tower controller to advise he was ready for takeoff. The tower controller cleared him for takeoff on runway 9 right, which the pilot acknowledged. There was no additional communication.


The HWO airport has four operating runways, supporting north, south, west, and east operations. The airport is adjacent to residential homes and businesses. Runway 9 at the HWO is a published 3,255-foot-long by 100-foot-wide, asphalt, runway.


The airplane came to rest on a 180-degree magnetic heading. The front section of the airplane impacted the ground surface, separating the engine nacelle section from the fuselage. The forward cockpit area was ripped open. The fuselage, and attached wings, came to rest adjacent and partially on the tennis court’s 20 foot tall fence. The empennage section separated and remained partially attached to the fuselage, resting on the fence. A postimpact fire consumed sections of the right wing, sections of the right side of the fuselage cabin area, and the cabin crown section.

An airframe and engine examination was conducted by an airframe and powerplant certificated mechanic, with FAA oversight. No evidence of preimpact failure or malfunction was observed with the airplane’s flight controls that would have prevented normal operation. Examination of the engine, and its accessories, and remnants did not provide any evidence for the loss of power.

The inner quill shaft in the gearbox was observed fractured. The shaft assembly was sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory for a metallurgical examination of the fractured surface. The examination revealed the fractured was from overload; a result from the impact sequence in the accident.


A postmortem examination of the pilot was conducted under the authority of the Florida State
Medical Examiner, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on July 8, 2008. The cause of death for the pilot was attributed to multiple blunt force injuries.

The FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute (CAMI) conducted toxicological testing on specimens from the pilot. The tests were negative for alcohol. Desmethylsertraline and Sertraline were detected in the blood and liver.


The FAA Advisory Circular 61-67C, Stall and Spin Awareness Training, makes reference to conditions where a stall will occur. It states, the possibility of inadvertently stalling the airplane by increasing the load factor (i.e., by putting the airplane in a steep turn or spiral) is much greater than in normal cruise flight. In a constant rate turn, increased load factors will cause an airplane's stall speed to increase as the angle of bank increases. Excessively steep banks should be avoided because the airplane will stall at a much higher speed. Recoveries from stalls and spins involve a tradeoff between loss of altitude and an increase in the load factor.

Edited by slownsteady, April 15 2012 3:47PM.

#10 TWS


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Posted April 15 2012 10:08PM

Sertraline is known by the brand name Zoloft, the anti-depressant.
So tear me open but beware
There's things inside without a care
And the dirt still stains me
So wash me until I'm clean
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#11 1SloTA


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Posted April 15 2012 11:56PM

I hope he wasn't using a LTx motor, I would hate to think the Opti crapped out and caused the accident.